Monday, January 2, 2012

The Happiness Project

This year I’m participating in The Happiness Project – sponsored by Rebecca at The project is based around the book and focuses on … well, finding happiness. I know that the search is not simple and it won’t be resolved based on a book … but I think it’s a good starting point.

So the first task is to come up with 12 commandments to live by/try to achieve or accomplish throughout the year.

Twelve Commandments

1. Start the day off by giving a little something to charity (This is something my mom got me started doing. Every morning one of the first things I do is put a coin into a jar. It’s not much – around 25 cents. The point is not the amount. The point is to start each day with the intention of giving to charity. The point is remembering how lucky we are despite how terrible things may seem at times. At the end of the there will be enough money to make a small difference to someone.)

2. Spend more time with my parents (I’ve been so busy over the past two years with my PhD and all my other stuff that I really haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked to (should have) with my parents … I plan to correct that.)

3. Eat well and exercise regularly (I am definitely doing well on the exercise front. I just need to continue to make sure I’m eating well too.)

4. Get things done – stop procrastinating! (Procrastination should be my FIRST name I do it so well … I get so distracted at times, or I just don’t want to get some tasks/work done – so I procrastinate … which only ends up making me feel more stressed about leaving things until the last minute. I’ve done this all my life – it’s time for a change!!

5. Read more (particularly non-PhD related stuff!) (I miss reading for fun. The past four years have been filled with reading journal articles and books about globalization, language, culture, and identity etc. As interesting as they were, I really miss picking up a novel and just enjoying it for reading’s sake, not because I need it for my thesis. I have many books on my ‘To read’ list … I need to tackle them.

6. Don’t skip out on something just because it scares you (This is something that was a frequent theme last year – there were so many things that I was intimidated to try, particularly when it came to exercise … afraid to go faster, afraid to lift more weight, etc. but in the end, I could do it and I would feel so proud. This year I don’t want that initial fear to be an issue. I want to have the confidence to just go for it!)

7. Be kind and patient (I believe these are two very important ingredients to a happy life!)

8. Have the courage to speak your mind (I often bite my tongue and don’t say what’s on my mind … in the end, the person who gets hurt the most is myself … and it’s MY fault. I need to have enough confidence and courage to know that my opinions count, and even if others don’t agree with what I have to say, my voice has just as much right to be heard.)

9. Put yourself first (I think there’s quite a balance to be struck when it comes to being kind … and putting yourself first. I guess this commandment would fall in line with ‘It’s ok to say no.’ A lot of times I feel obligated to do something even if I don’t want to do it, again, like I said in #8, it’s really just my fault for not being able to stand my ground and speak up for myself. This year, I will try to rectify that. It doesn’t mean that I will strive to be selfish; it’s about realizing that I’m just as important as other people.) [You have no idea how hard it was for me to just write that.]

10. Avoid people who bring negative energy (People have problems. Heck, I have a zillion problems, but there are some people who just really bring you down. The negativity and ‘woe is me’ attitude is constant … or they are highly critical of everything you do – though sometimes I think that is envy disguised as criticism. These people need to be dropped. I have enough negative voices in my head to deal with. I don’t need anybody else’s as well!)

11. Work hard and play hard (I’ve got to find a balance. I seem to either do one thing or the other. I’ve spent week after week at my desk not talking to anyone and being completely anti-social, only to exhaust myself or make myself ill so I couldn’t even see my friends if I had wanted to … not this year. This year I will strike a balance.)

12. On days when everything seems particularly hard and challenging – Don’t lose hope; remain confident and optimistic (Some days are just bad days. It’s ok to have bad days. It’s ok to take a day off from the gym or sleep in for a few extra hours. It’s ok to take a break … just don’t give up. ‘Fake it till you make it’ used to be a ‘commandment’ of mine … although I still believe it to a certain degree, I also think it’s important to realize when you just have to pause and give yourself a moment to breathe.)

Of course, my overarching commandment for the year is: Let it Go

The next part of this task is to share some secrets of adulthood – what are things that I have learned over the years that are worth sharing …

Secrets of Adulthood

1. This too shall pass – pain, heartache, sorrow are temporary; some take longer to pass than others, but eventually, things will get better.

2. Think before you speak – once you’ve said something, it’s out there. You can’t take it back.

3. Never make big decisions when you are emotional – this is related to #2 but slightly different. Anger, sadness, jealousy are very strong emotions – be careful what you do when you’re in a state of heightened emotions … as with #2, a lot of times things you say/do cannot be reversed.

4. It is better to give than receive … but don’t it be a one-way give/take relationship for long. I know people that are more than happy to receive, and while I am happy to give, after some time, I do start to feel unappreciated. If you’re always buying lunch for someone or always making the first move to arrange get-togethers and the other person doesn’t reciprocate. Stop. Friendship is a two-way street.

5. Others cannot read your mind – if you have something to say, SAY IT – This is something I still have a hard time doing. I often sit there with my teeth clenched and 1,000 thoughts racing through my mind … but I bite my tongue and don’t say anything. Well, now I think that’s rather foolish. It doesn’t mean you have to be unkind or aggressive – just speak your mind.

The final task is to come up with 5 goals revolving around a month-specific theme. This month’s focus is Vitality. I like the idea of having one focus for each month. I’ve found that trying to work on several goals at once can be very overwhelming. For me, the more overwhelming things get, the easier it becomes for me to just push my targets aside and say – it’s too much. I just can’t.

The idea of having monthly goals that revolve around a central theme is to work on mini-realistic, sustainable-goals so that they add up to big, positive changes by the end of the year (hopefully).

The five goals I’ve set to boost my vitality this month are:

1. Remember to take my vitamins/supplements daily (This may sound like a silly one to start off with, but for some reason I keep forgetting something so simple.)

2. Replace refined sugars with fruit (My biggest problem is my sweet tooth. Although I try not to bring sweets into the house, I still have a craving for sweets. This year I’m going to try and have more fruit to reduce the cravings for other sugary foods.)

3. Watch my carbohydrate intake (I think I’m doing fine nutritionally, but my carb intake is still high and I really need to rectify that)

4. Get more sleep (My insomnia often gets the better of me. My sleep over the past month and a half has been declining – I’m at about 4 hours/night at the moment. I really, really need to sleep more if I expect to have any energy to get me through the day and through my workouts!)

5. De-clutter (I have a lot of stuff … and frankly, I love my stuff!! Lately, however, it’s all getting to be too much. I just want to lighten the load and hopefully lessen some of the pressure I feel being bound to all this stuff … and by relieving that pressure, perhaps I will boost my vitality as well!)


  1. Great commandments! I like the one about reading what you want to. I struggle as well when I become too absorbed in academic work. I've always kept the rule that before going to sleep I will read a book that I want. I've found that reading work or study books in bed leads to a night of no sleep with my brain working too much :/

    Good luck with the project x

  2. Great commandments. I, too, need to be more mindful of my carbs, get more sleep, declutter, reduce/eliminate refined sugars. I am definitely bookmarking your blog. Can't wait to see your progress this year.

  3. We have a few the same, de cluttering seriously clears my mind. Just organising stuff is important for me.

  4. There is so much good stuff here that I read this twice! I printed this out and saved it to my desktop. Everything you said here applies to me as well. I wish you nothing but good things with this project! I think you're going to be amazed by it and learn so much about yourself. You're going to grow so much. I can tell already. I'm so excited for you! The procrastination surprised me...I never would have guessed that about you!

  5. This is a great post! De-cluttering is something I'm working on this month too - when we moved 18 months ago, I got rid of a LOT of stuff, and keeping the house with less clutter is so satisfying. But I have a couple of trouble spots that need to be addressed, especially sine I brought back a lot of "stuff" from my vacation!


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